The opening words of "Our American Flag," a column written by Dr. James Burns as an "iconic tribute to our flag and country," are particularly poignant today -- Flag Day, the annual commemoration of "Old Glory" -- and worth a mention here.

"I've been to the moon. I've been burned. But more often I'm honored," writes Burns, a retired University of Florida professor, of the stars and stripes. "I'm your American flag."

He concludes his piece, which can be found in full online: "I represent the American spirit, the indomitable demand and yearning for freedom, excellence and opportunity. I am not the flag of a ruling regime or royal family. I am the American flag, representing rights emanating from a higher and transcendent authority."

"Look up to me as you salute or stand attention. … Look up and salute with pride what the patriot poet hailed as a worthy star-spangled banner."

We only wish everyone in Paducah and McCracken County had the same reverence for the flag as Burns.

Plenty of businesses and public spaces around town fly the flag outside, a laudable, patriotic practice, sure.

But a longer-than-cursory look at some of the flags reveals many are in poor condition, with weather-worn reds, whites and blues; frayed edges; and in some cases, significant tears.

Just in our own sphere from our building downtown, we regularly see two flags flying in prominent locations that are in extremely poor condition, long past due for proper retirement and replacement.

Tattered flags, the editorial board contends, are neither a true representation of American ideals nor the sacrifices to preserve them. Shoddy flags are also a poor look for businesses and institutions that fly them, and the overall community.

This position may seem trivial to some, but not to us. If you're going to fly the flag -- and you should -- straighten up and fly them right. Honor and respect are the point, not empty, symbolic gestures suggesting -- but not properly exhibiting -- patriotism.

Don Cook, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1191 adjutant, told The Sun this week that the average lifespan for a flag flown outside is seven months to a year.

"Once a flag is faded out or starts to be ripping, then it's time to retire the flag," he said.

This minor bit of attention, maintenance and cost is a meager price to pay in honoring a country that has given so many so much, the editorial board believes.

Today is a fitting day to start making things right.

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